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Ro-ro ship, Modern Express salvage drifting in the Bay of Biscay, was safely towed to the port of Bilbao, Spain. A team of rescuers from the SMIT Salvage agency boarded the ship on February 1 and secured a towline, preventing the vessel from running aground off the coast of France, where it was blown off by the wind.
The Modern Express vessel was towed to Bilbao by the rescue vessel Centaurus, accompanied by the auxiliary shelf vessel Ria de Vigo and the vessel for the liquidation of oil spills Argonaut. The French military frigate Primauguet and the rescue tugboat Abeille Bourbon accompanied the Modern Express on February 2, after which they went back to the port of registration – Brest.
As the port administration of Bilbao reported on February 3, Modern Express was in port, docking has already been carried out. Tug Centaurus, which heroically dragged the ship to the dock, is anchored nearby. The system of automatic identification (AIS) on Modern Express works with interruptions – the dispatching center on the coast did not receive a signal from it for some time.
The sea during towing was much calmer than on January 26, when the ship lost stability and received a roll of more than 40°, forcing the crew to be evacuated by a helicopter. Now the wind speed was not exceeding 4 m/s, and the wave height was about only two meters.
Modern Express was 10 miles far from Bilbao on February 2. Rescuers from the Spanish side decided not to risk and to have a pause until the next day to bring the ship to the port with good visibility. At the entrance to the harbor, another tug joined the procession, which helped Modern Express with docking. Eight rescuers landed on board to fix the ends. The video taken at the time of entering the port clearly shows how two tugs can barely cope with a large Ro-Ro ship, whose bank reaches 50° already.
The legal regulation of forced calls to ports has become tougher in Europe several times in recent years. Many incidents forced to this. For example, on December 12, 1999, the tanker named Erica sank off near the French coast – within the unique economic zone, but outside the territorial waters of the country. This led to the spill of 20 tons of fuel oil, which turned into black oil swamping 400 km of the French coastal line.
In the same long-suffering Bay of Biscay, the world’s greatest ecological catastrophe at sea began on November 13, more than 15 years ago, in 2002. The Prestige tanker got leaked during a violent storm, fuel began to flow out of it. On November 19, the tanker split in two, and more than 50,000 tons of high-sulfur fuel oil got into the sea. The coasts of France, Spain, and Portugal have turned into a zone of ecological disaster. It is noteworthy that Prestige was tried to be saved by the same vessel that helped Modern Express, the auxiliary shelf vessel Ria de Vigo from Brest.
Luckily for Modern Express, this ship is in a completely different destination now. Of course, the reasons for the loss of stability are very intriguing, but judging from the fact that the ship was allowed to Bilbao, nothing particularly terrible happened onboard.